Category Archives: Technology

The Beat Goes On

[12:50 PM] Today is the day I might get the iPod I alway dreamed of. The Apple store is down which tells me it will be available today. 10 minutes to wait before the event starts.

[12:53 PM] Gizmodo is reporting the event is packed… No kidding… 7 minutes to go. I’m dying…

[12:58 pm] iMac on stage so we can expect some news on the iTunes front. I can’t take it anymore!!!!

[1:00 PM] Here we go!

[1:02 PM] And we are starting with iTunes.

[1:03 PM] Numbers, pie charts… #3 Music retailer in the US… Come on!!!!!

[1:05 PM] I keep refreshing the iTunes site and it’s still 7.3. Oh! OK apparently not until tonight.

[1:06 PM] Ringtones… Well I don’t have an iPhone…

[1:10 PM] “Give Peace a Chance is for when NBC calls”. That’s funny.

[1:12 PM] Badabing! complete new line of iPods!!!! Aaaaaahhhhh!!!

[1:14 PM] Rumors were true for the Nano. It will support video. Looks boxy.

[1:17 PM] Awwww man that thing is so thin!

[1:18 PM] Games! So if there are gamers on the Nano, I guess we can expect games on the big boy.

[1:23 PM] “iPod Nano Battery life: 24 hours of audio playback, 5 hours of video playback.” Holy Molly!!!

[1:24 PM] Will be in store this weekend? Noooooo! In store today! It’s got to be in store today!

[1:27 PM] iPod classic. Wooooo.

[1:28 PM] 160 GB of goodness! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

[1:38 pm] It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen….

[1:47 PM] A few weeks, a few weeks? I can’t wait a few weeks!!!!

[1:49 PM] The iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store. So rumor was true…

[2:04 PM] So I was blinsided for a second here. $399 for 16gb on the touch and $399 for 160gb on the classic? I have to do some thinking here.

[2:10 PM] I think it’s going to be a touch.

Hey Microsoft!

Don’t you think it’s time for a Windows XP Service Pack 3? I was doing a clean install of XP Service Pack 2 today and I loaded the machine with Office 2007. This is what it took to bring it up to date:Installation of the active X control for Microsoft Update. Back to the home page for software upgrades, namely Windows installer 3.1 and Windows Genuine Advantage then restart. Back to the home page, 102 updates for a total of 244.2MB!!!!

Think that’s bad? Wait! Restart then back to Microsoft Update and another 14 updates totaling 42.7MB this time.

And that’s a third restart. Back to Microsoft update, behold! One security update for .NET framework. 8.8MB and we are done.

That’s roughly 300MB worth of update and you have to reboot your computer 3 times.

Microsoft? Time for Service Pack 3, like now… But I guess you’ve already decided that it was for the first half of ’08.

Bastards!

The magic wand

I’ve searched the land a long time for the Holy Grail of universal remotes and my quest is now over. The Harmony Advanced Universal Remote for Xbox 360 is the answer. Not only does it control everything I have at home that can be controlled with a remote (including the A/C) but you can also program macros called activities like “watch TV” or “watch DVD” or “listen to Radio”.What makes this remote special is the XBox 360 buttons. I generally agree with the CNet video review of the product:

But do not agree with the written review. I have no problem with the numeric keypad and I don’t think the interface to program the remote is intimidating at all. As a matter of fact I thought it was really user friendly. As far as rechargeable batteries I’ll have to see how fast I go through one set.

It took me about 30mn to setup all the devices and activities (installation of the software included) which I thought was really good. My main problem when it comes to universal remotes has always been the Scientific Atlanta 8300HD. Since it is my cable box but also my DVR it is by far the element of my entertainment center that has the most complex remote. I was shocked to realize that every single functions was there, I’d lie if I said it didn’t take a bit of getting use to it, but it’s all there.

I also love the “glow” button since I usually watch TV with the lights out.

My box of remotes is now in storage. One remote to rule them all.

$99 at Circuit City.

Anything to declare?

Curse you HP for making my life miserable. It all started with a Designjet 110plus printer Friday of last week, not that there was anything wrong with it, but you would think that for $1,000 you would get a printer cable with it, well think again. I had to go to Circuit City around the corner to get one.I wouldn’t even remember that incident if it wasn’t for all the misery related to HP products that followed.

On Saturday I’m trying to slap a 500GB internal SATA drive into a Compaq Presario SR1403WM when I realize there’s no SATA power on the power supply and I would need an LP4 to SATA adapter. The thing is most vendors seem to have this item as a web only so I’m thinking on one hand that I’m out of luck but then again since the computer is an older model I decide to cut HP (that’s right Compaq is HP) some slack since SATA drive have only become widespread in the past couple of years. That was until we got our hands on a brand new HP Pavilion a6097c. Not only does the motherboard supports SATA drives it also comes standard with a SATA hard drive but again no SATA power. So how do they power the drive do you ask? By using the above mentioned adapter. At that point I was fuming.

This could be where the story ends but on Thursday someone walks into my office with yet another HP Pavilion this time still in the box right out of the store. I didn’t need to do any hardware upgrade for this one but I was still so miffed over the events of last weekend that I decided to open the case just for the hell of it. I shook my head in disbelief and then I snapped a picture.

It’s one thing to be cheap HP, but in order to unload your stock of old power supplies you have turned what used to be the simplest hardware upgrade on a PC into a nightmare. Congratulations!

Back on XP

I finally had the time this morning to roll back to XP Media Center Edition on my main machine. The saddest part of the story was my sigh of relief deleting the Vista partition.I really tried to make it work but I realize now I should have switched back to XP weeks if not months ago.

I wouldn’t put Microsoft latest OS at the same level as Windows Me but it’s a close second, there’s also ample evidence the wave of discontent is building up but enough rambling I’m back on a working computer! Woohoo!

iPhone… Do you really?

I was able to get my hands on an iPhone for a full day and went through the entire process, from taking it out of the box to activating it, to configuring it, to actually using it.

Unpacking the iPhone is pretty much like unpacking a video iPod. It comes in that sleek black and silver box with a color photo of the device on top. In the box is the phone of course, a set of headphones looking exactly like the ones for the iPod but with a mic so that you can pick up a call while listening to music, a USB cord to connect the phone to your MAC or PC, a power supply similar to the iPod but smaller, a dock station and a lint free cloth to keep your shiny new toy clean. Also included is a small booklet giving a brief description of all the basic functions but do not be fooled, the full fledged user’s guide is 124 pages long.

The first surprise was, although the phone is silver and black, all the accessories are white. You could make the case for the iPod that most people got theirs in white but as far as I know, the iPhone comes only in one color.

Activation. The phone out of the box is locked and has to be activated via iTunes 7.3. My task was to transfer an existing Verizon number out of a business account with multiple numbers. So just to make sure I wasn’t messing up with the entire account I called At&t (the only carrier for the iPhone but more on that later) and the first operator I spoke to wasn’t very knowledgeable, she told me that I had to call Apple and offered to transfer me. I realized quickly I had been transferred instead to another At&t operator on top of her game this time. She answered all my questions and I went ahead with the activation on iTunes. It took less than 10 minutes to complete the process and the old cell number was transferred to the iPhone within 30 minutes.

On one hand I was very impressed but on the other a couple of things hit me. One of the reasons I wasn’t planning on getting an iPhone to begin with was the single carrier thing. As far as New York City is concerned I would not consider using anything else but Verizon and I’m perfectly happy with my Motorola Q but besides that the minimum requirements to have an iPhone are:

1. A Mac or a PC with a USB 2.0 port and one of the following operating systems:

  • Mac OS X version10.4.10 or later
  • Windows XP Home or Professional with Service Pack 2 or later
  • Windows Vista Home Premium, Business, Enterprise, or Ultimate edition

2. the latest version of iTunes.
3. a high speed Internet connection (iTunes 7.3 + QuickTime is a 58Mb download)
4. a major credit card

and it left me wondering how many people were left in the cold for not meeting just one of those requirements?

Configuration. Apple’s strong suit. Not very much to report here. It’s very user friendly and fairly intuitive although I find the ringer to be too low even at maximum level and you cannot install your own custom ringer (although there appears to be a hack for MAC users).

Configuring a POP3 email account is very easy as well, as long as you have your account information.

Same goes with the Wi-Fi which was a pleasant surprise since I thought the only way to go online with an iPhone was through At&t.

Using the iPhone.

Part 1 – The Good: You’ve seen the commercials, you’ve seen the demos on TV or maybe you’ve been lucky enough to have someone at the office let you hold his or hers for a brief moment yanking it back quickly from your prying hands.

Yes, it’s that cool and having one will make you cool, for the next month or so anyway and since you’ll have to agree to a 2 years contract with At&t, I would suggest you to drink a glass of ice cold water and think before you run out the door to buy one.

The touch screen is awesome and seem to be as scratch resistant as Apple is advertising (as in: not like my video iPod). The quality of the display for video playback is amazing. I loaded an episode of LOST to check the quality and it’s all I’ve been waiting for from a next generation iPod.

The user interface for the iPod part of the phone is substantially different from the interface of the standalone iPod and I was finding it awkward to use initially until I figured out I could customize it to my needs by dragging and dropping the functions I wanted to the browser bar and all was well with the world again.

But I don’t need to lay down the selling points for you so lets go right to…

Part 2 – The Bad: I had to transfer manually the phone numbers stored in the old phone to the iPhone. Fortunately it wasn’t a whole lot of them and it gave me the opportunity to make an extensive use of the on-screen keyboard… I hate it. I thought that’s because the keys were too small and I kept missing the target but come to think of it the keys on my phone are probably smaller. So I’m not sure what the issue is but I’m all thumbs with it and got frustrated very quickly.

There’s no “Manually manage music and videos” function in iTunes for the iPhone. Consequently your phone tries to synchronize with your entire library as soon as it’s connected to your computer. That might work for most users but my library went over 200GB a while ago so the only option you have in that case is to create a playlist for the iPhone. Drag and drop the tracks and/or albums you want on your phone and then sync.

I have two issues with this. One, and that’s because I’m really anal about it but, I don’t want a playlist to appear on my iPod or my iTunes if it is there for no other reason than transfer music. it’s staring at me taunting me… no seriously it drives me nut. Two, I’ve always managed my iPods, since the first generation, manually. That’s the way I’ve always done it and I don’t see why I’m not able to do it with the iPhone.

Part 3 – The Ugly: Unfortunately the iPhone being a phone there will be times when you will have to hold it to your ear. Even if you’re using the headphones or a bluetooth headset there will be that one time when the only option is to pick up the iPhone and slap it to the side of your face and you will discover to your horror a layer of grease coming from your skin on your wonderful 3.5 inch screen. I think the cloth does a lousy job at removing it and of course the more you’ll be using it as a phone the worst the problem will get.

To conclude this extensive post, I think the iPhone is a great device but not quite a killer app. Even if all the things I mentioned previously where fixed I’m still not sure I would get one because all I’m really waiting for is an iPod that looks exactly like the iPhone but with a 100GB hard drive and I don’t necessarily need it to be a phone.

But then again I could change my mind about this.

XBox 360 and External Hard Drives: The odd couple

Besides breaking a lot, the XBox 360 is damn near freakin’ perfect as an entertainment center, so why did Microsoft had to make it so difficult to connect an external hard drive to its next generation console?

I’m not sure I have an answer to that and I don’t necessarily see some ominous plot between MS, the RIAA and the MPAA but here is what I know about using an external Hard Drive with an XBox 360.
I’ll start by stating the obvious: it will have to be a USB drive because you have only USB ports on the console. Now that we’ve got that out of the way it’s going to sound umbelievable but the Operating System of the 360, a Miscrosoft product, does not identify the NTFS format so your drive will have to be formated with FAT32.
FAT32 allows a 2TB partiton so no problem there, it has however a very annoying limitation that to my knowledge cannot be changed and it’s a maximum of a 4GB file size. In other words you will not be able to store a file larger than 4GB on a FAT32 drive. It might seem like a no brainer when it comes to photos and music but it pretty much rules out videos, especially high definition videos which doesn’t matter anyway because the XBox 360 will not play any type of video from an external hard drive.
So to sum things up, you’ll need a USB external hard drive formated in FAT32 and you’ll only be able to read photos and music from it.
One final note, USB ports on the 360 are “read only” so don’t expect to transfer anything from your console to your hard drive either.
It’s all pretty useless when you think about it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go back to watching Tokyo Drift in HD streamed from my PC.

I’m throwing the towel.

I was reading this morning the Washington Post‘s article about Windows Vista, then went on to watch the YouTube video of the ever excellent Chris Pirillo.


And I realized that consciously or not I’ve been playing with the idea of rolling back to XP Media Center for a couple of months now. Vista just won’t work for me. Not that’s it’s a bad Operating System, in many respects I love it and as long as you’re dealing with first party software and hardware, it’s great but when it comes to third party, I pretty much gave up trying to make things work.

Take my sound card for example. I had specifically picked it for it’s ability to output 5.1 surround sound to my receiver and the manufacturer even released a Vista driver. the card works fine except that it will not ouput under any circumstances 5.1 surround sound.

When it comes to third party software you can end up with some pretty funky stuffs. To download ‘recipes’ off Usenet (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) I like to use GrabIt, specifically an older version, 1.5.2 Beta, which has always been good to me. After completing installation, entering my account information, subscribing to my fovorite newsgroups, I then proceeded to download a first batch of posts, everything seemed to go well except after opening my “Download Folder” nothing was there. I knew however from the free space left on the hard drive (big long recipe) that the files were there. After doing a quick search by size and date, I quickly realized Vista was storing my GrabIt downloads in a mirror directory under AppData. I resolved the issue by changing the security settings on the GrabIt download directory:

Right -click on “Download” -> Security -> Edit -> Users -> Allow full control.

Then there are maddening issues directly related to the Operating System itself like the User Account Control(UAC). This thing will prompt you for something as innocuous as a “cut and paste” job. “Are you sure you really want to do what you’re trying to do?” Errrr yes most of the time I do, thank you very much. Some will be quick to point out that you can disable it and they would be absolutely right, however no sooner do you turn off the UAC that the Security Center freaks out because your settings potentially expose your system to hackers and viruses. So now here we go disabling the notification settings of the Security Center. All I was trying here was prevent my computer to ask me twice if I really want to move that file!

Not to mention the sidebar that’s buggy at best!

So at the end of the day Windows Vista, as it is, gets between me and my computer whereas Windows XP IS my computer. I’m switching back to XP next week.

PS: G4 you can bring back “Call for Help” still broadcasted on G4 Canada and “The Screen Savers” (I hate “Attack of the Show”) any day of the week